Measurement of serum fentanyl and aifentanil concentrations by radioimmunoassay (RIA) may result in significant errors and high variability when the technique described in the available fentanyl and alfentanil RIA kits is used. The authors found a 29-94% overestimation of measured fentanyl and alfentanil serum levels when 3H-fentanyl or 3H-alfentanil was added lastly to the mixture of antiserum and sample. This finding is related to a reduction in binding sites for the labeled compounds after preincubation of sample and antiserum. If this sequence is used, it becomes necessary to extend the incubation period up to 6 h for fentanyl and up to 10 h for alfentanil in order to achieve equilibration between unlabeled and labeled drug with respect to antiserum binding. However, when antiserum is added lastly to the mixture of sample and labeled drug, measurement accuracy and precision for fentanyl and alfentanil serum concentrations are enhanced markedly. In addition, it is important to perform the calibration curves and sample measurements using the same medium (i.e., serum alone or a serum / buffer dilution). In summary, to optimize the RIA for fentanyl and alfentanil, the authors recommend the following: 1) adding the antiserum lastly to the mixture of sample and labeled drug; 2) performing calibration curves using patient's blank serum when possible; 3) carefully examining and standardizing each step of the RIA procedure to reduce variability, and, finally; 4) comparing results with those of other established RIA laboratories.
(C) 1984 American Society of Anesthesiologists, Inc.